Lab chemicals ‘kill teacher’

Dan Moyo

Dan Moyo

Auxilia Katongomara Chronicle Reporter
A TEACHER died at Mandwandwe High School in Bulawayo’s Nkulumane suburb after allegedly inhaling poisonous fumes at the science laboratory. The school has been forced to close its science laboratories following the tragedy on Monday.

The Chronicle has established that the Fire Brigade on February 22 recommended the closure of the laboratory, citing harmful gases whose source could not be established.

The school yesterday faced accusations of not following recommended procedures and standards for chemical storage.

Science teacher Trust Ncube died on Monday after complaining of chest pains and reporting breathing difficulties. The following day, the school announced that the science labs were out of bounds, said a source at the school.

Ncube, The Chronicle gathered yesterday, fell sick and asked for some days off, complaining of chest pains but the headmaster, Litmus Moyo, refused to grant him sick leave.

“All the science teachers are sick and several pupils have also shown the same symptoms,” a teacher said yesterday.

Following the Fire Brigade’s recommendations in February, the science teachers were given “sub-standard” safety clothes, the teacher claimed.

The headmaster declined an interview, referring questions to the provincial education director Dan Moyo, who said an investigation has been launched.

“We sent a team of specialists today to investigate and they’re compiling a report. I can’t comment on the teacher’s cause of death because the post-mortem result has not been released,” said Moyo.

Bulawayo chief fire officer Richard Peterson said the school asked the Fire Brigade to come and clean up the lab.

“They phoned us today. This follows their previous engagement with us where we recommended that they close the lab as we could not establish where the gases were leaking from.

“We told them that they should consult experts,” said Peterson.

A bio-chemist who requested anonymity said the school could have been negligent in failing to follow lab procedures.

“There are safety precautions or standards that must be maintained because there are compounds, gases and acids that emit harmful fumes,” he said.

The chemist said chemicals such as sulphuric acid, chlorine, fluorine and bromine which are used at school labs fume on their own and must be kept in a fume hood or bottle.

“People react to these fumes, gradually they fall sick. Some suffer from headaches, nausea, nose bleeds and dizziness depending on the chemical,” he added.

“Most probably there was a spillage in the cupboard and no-one could see it. It could have been a container that wasn’t properly sealed.”

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  • Bongani Dlamini

    smells and sounds like a new gukurahundi tactic on our people.

    • Abel Ntakana

      Usulahleke kakhulu mnumzana. If we blame everything on Gugulawundi they won’t take us seriously when we put across genuine concerns.

      • mlugulu

        you are right ntakana, the headmaster is at fault at this point for failing to take the appropriate action when faced with a threatening danger both to pupils and the teacher, was he waiting for a chemical explosion or what

        • Chakanetsa

          Founders high has similar head and deputy who abuse teachers, they are afraid of saying it .We need managers at schools not bully’s or politicians.

      • Concerned

        Do you think you will ever be taken serious in Zim mara

  • musa

    abuse of power by the headmaster, why deny someone sick leave when they tell you that they are not feeling well? He must be taken to task for his poor decision.

  • Mpisi

    It’s all Robert Gabriel Mgodoyi’s fault!

    • Bambanani

      Yes. everything in Zimbabwe is now sub-standard because of this Mgodoyi

  • Max

    Do something, investigate this death and investigate the science lab before we loose many precious lives. This is gross negligence by the head my L Moyo, if he don’t know what he is doing then lets have the right person there. We don’t want the STEM dreams pushed under the carpet, our children should benefit from that lab.

  • Kezi

    Uheadmaster uzenza induna yena. Abuse of power by the lunatic headmaster.

    • msindazwe

      the other question is does the head know anything about sciences

  • Yimi Engikhulumayo Phela

    o Dan abaselamazinyo kodwa lokhe bewomele ezikhundleni bengavuleli ulutsha arggh nxxx

    • mlugulu

      kkkkkkkkkk l like your comment

      • MakhosiXamu

        I don’t like his stupid comment. Dan Moyo is not the Headmaster, uluhlanya, ndwangu.

  • mlugulu

    are there safety procedures in that school or an emergency plan, how do they deal with an emergency

    • MakhosiXamu

      Your questions are not relevant. Nxa ubuthongo bukuhlupha …….the best thing for you is to go back to bed.

      • mlugulu

        there should be rules associated with a lab to be followed to save lives xamu

      • Zuze

        Doctor Xamu

  • Department 6

    dnt blame the head alone, remember the gvt recalled all teachers that were on leave; and had said no teacher should go on leave

    • theza

      but sick leave overrides other leave as they should be guided by the notes from the medical doctor who is an expert in that area, once the doctor says he is unfit for 90 days who can say no, remember this country respects human rights, some one should not be forced to work if they are not feeling well, they should be released to consult the doctors

  • JonaMusoroDamba

    Chronicle get yo facts straight!!! Wrong school, wrong headmaster.

    • mjahunda

      which school is it

  • abbie makiwa

    Aaaaaaah a shameful story on loss of life but honestly there could be some negligence on the part of the Provincial Director’s office.I think the head had earlier own made some consultations with the Fire Brigade on what could be the problem and the recommendation was that the laboratory should be closed however the head could not have done that on his own without the authority from the Provincial Director.The head can only be questioned on the refusal of giving the teacher sick leave since sick leave is not something one could plan to take.If the head allowed this poor teacher to go on leave then may be doctors were going to diagonise the problem and he would not have passed on.On the side of the Provincial Director I think he should have reacted the moment the Fire Brigade had recommended the closure of the laboratory but he chose to look and listen without any action to be taken now look Dan life has been lost.
    I happen to be working in the Human Resources department and it is not either the Director or the head of a school who should determine one’s sickness but its the qualified practitioner who should grant one sick leave.The head should have let the teacher go and then the doctor was to identify the teacher’s problem and then grant sick leave,
    Reporters lets not try to fuel a story which we do not exactly know where it would have started again do not interview the bereaved obvious the story would have been sweetened to qualify the intended degree.

    Thank you.

  • Ndlukula YeSizwe

    Likhuluma njengabantu who have never been in a school work environment. Teachers ask for sick leave all the time in the majority of cases beqamba amanga. There was no way the head could know the extent of the problem when one teacher first approached him with a chest pain probably this teacher has cried wolf many times before. The lab has probably been operating this way for years without mishap.
    When others started complaining of the same thing is when the extent of the problem was probably realized and reacted to, hence the calling of the Fire Brigade etc.
    its fine to look back retrospectively and say this or that was not done properly but are the required storage materials for these chemicals available for the school,aya dura phela, do they have gas masks for all students when doing their experiments? probably not. Which school emalokitshini has all the materials needed for a totally “safe” lab environment? Probably very few if any. more Gvt investment is needed for our labs to at least meet min standards, meantime we have to make do.
    This was a freak accident they need to be more careful going forward.

    • xi

      the head is not qualified to deny someone sick leave and say you are not sick, that area is beyond him, a doctor may grant sick leave in some cases after he notices that allowing the patient to report for work might result in the spread of what the individual is suffering from or the medication prescribed might lead to drowsiness or hinder the workers perfomance

      • simbo

        It doesn’t matter who the worker is even a pilot might be issued a note which has to be respected, e.g. he is unfit to be in or near cockpit for a certain number of days but some employers might force the pilot to fly the plane and disregard this

    • Dwalaliyasha

      a poor assessment of the situation on the ground uyambimba nje wena

  • xi

    this stem thing will lead to more loss of lives if there are no qualified and experienced personnel to deliver, a chemical lab is never a joke as gas can be airborne and catch fire endangering lives or even some chemicals like sulphiric acid or benzene need to be treated with respect, some chemicals have long time effects on users like cancer when they have long left the institution, if experienced stem teachers are unavailable it will be rather better to suspend or seek experienced personnel not those with suspected forged papers. A laboratory accident is also likely to affect the community around it. Remember a gas leak in Bopal India in 1984 children are still being born with deformities . Never take chances with chemicals they can burn, explode or poison the atmosphere . Also store and destroy chemicals according to manufacturer specifications, some have to be stored at room temperature whereas others have specific storage requirements

  • blarazonke

    Ooh, we used to love nitrogen oxide, the laughing gas in the labs. RIP teacher..

  • my zanupf

    effects of wanting to stemtise the school to the health of the school students and teacher. A case of Bulawayo urban school cluster

  • Doppelganger

    This headmaster does not pass the Litmus test for good leadership

  • Moto Watsva

    @Ndlukula Yesizwe You sound like Mandwandwe sch head himself or his footlocker !! This is a serious story about a life lost – family robbed of a bread winner coz some school head thinks teachers are faking illnesses. If the teachers fake illnesses so what ? Are they on the school head’s payroll or the Public service payroll? They school heads should stop acting like custodians of Government funds forgetting that they are also employees !!